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Hodder & Stoughton, 1910
Lighter Side of My Official Life, The
Anderson, Sir Robert, K.C.B.
London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1910.
295pp. [Police and Forensic Science]

Casebook Review:

Sir Robert Anderson's autobiography, compiled from a series of articles published earlier the same year in Blackwood's Magazine. He discusses the Ripper case at some length, then admits that the killer was indeed captured and incarcerated in a lunatic asylum. He does not name the killer, who he refers to as a "Polish Jew." Rare.

The full text of the relevant chapter is provided below.


First days at Scotland Yard - The "Whitechapel murders" - The Criminal a Polish Jew

MY last chapter brought down my story to my appointment, in September, 1888, as Assistant Commissioner of Police and head of the Criminal Investigation Department. Mr. Monro was not "an easy man to follow," and my difficulties in succeeding to the post were increased by the foolish ways of the Home Office, as well as by the circumstances of the times. As I have already said, Sir Charles Warren had then secured the loyal support of the Force generally. But the officers of the Criminal Investigation Department were demoralized by the treatment accorded to their late chief; and during the interval since his practical retirement sinister rumours were in circulation as to the appointment of his successor. If the announcement had been made that, on his official retirement on the 31st of August, I should succeed to the office, things might have settled down. For all the principal officers knew and trusted me. But for some occult reason the matter was kept secret, and I was enjoined not to make my appointment known. I had been in the habit of frequenting Mr. Monro's room, as we were working together in political crime matters ; but when I did so now, and Sir Charles Warren took advantage of my visit to come over to see me, it was at once inferred that he was spying on me because I was Mr. Monro's friend. The indignation felt by the officers was great, and I had some difficulty in preventing Chief-Superintendent Williamson from sending in his resignation.

Then, again, I was at that time physically unfit to enter on the duties of my new post. For some time past I had not had an adequate holiday, and the strain of long and anxious work was telling on me. " A man is as old as he feels," and by this test I was older at that time than when I left office a dozen years later. Dr. Gilbart Smith, of Harley Street, insisted that I must have two months' complete rest, and he added that he would probably give me a certificate for a further two months' " sick leave." This, of course, was out of the question. But I told Mr. Matthews, greatly to his distress, that I could not take up my new duties until I had had a month's holiday in Switzerland. And so, after one week at Scotland Yard, I crossed the Channel.

But this was not all. The second of the crimes known as the Whitechapel murders was committed the night before I took office, and the third occurred the night of the day on which I left London. The newspapers soon began to comment on my absence. And letters from Whitehall decided me to spend the last week of my holiday in Paris, that I might be in touch with my office. On the night of my arrival in the French capital two more victims fell to the knife of the murder-fiend ; and next day's post brought me an urgent appeal from Mr. Matthews to return to London ; and of course I complied.

On my return I found the Jack-the-Ripper scare in full swing. When the stolid English go in for a scare they take leave of all moderation and common sense. If nonsense were solid, the nonsense that was talked and written about those murders would sink a Dreadnought. The subject is an unsavoury one, and I must write about it with reserve. But it is enough to say that the wretched victims belonged to a very small class of degraded women who frequent the East End streets after midnight, in hope of inveigling belated drunkards, or men as degraded as themselves. I spent the day of my return to town, and half the following night, in reinvestigating the whole case, and next day I had a long conference on the subject with the Secretary of State and the Chief Commissioner of Police. " We hold you responsible to find the murderer," was Mr. Matthews' greeting to me. My answer was to decline the responsibility. " I hold myself responsible," I said, " to take all legitimate means to find him." But I went on to say that the measures I found in operation were, in my opinion, wholly indefensible and scandalous ; for these wretched women were plying their trade under definite Police protection. Let the Police of that district, I urged, receive orders to arrest every known " street woman " found on the prowl after midnight, or else let us warn them that the Police will not protect them. Though the former course would have been merciful to the very small class of women affected by it, it was deemed too drastic, and I fell back on the second.

However the fact may be explained, it is a fact that no other street murder occurred in the "Jack-the-Ripper " series.* The last and most horrible of that maniacs crimes was committed in a house in Miller's Court on the 9th of November. And the circumstances of that crime disposed of all the theories of the amateur Sherlock Holmeses of that date.

One did not need to be a Sherlock Holmes to discover that the criminal was a sexual maniac of a virulent type ; that he was living in the immediate vicinity of the scenes of the murders ; and that, if he was not living absolutely alone, his people knew of his guilt, and refused to give him up to justice. During my absence abroad the Police had made a house-to-house search for him, investigating the case of every man in the district whose circumstances were such that he could go and come and get rid of his blood-stains in secret. And the conclusion we came to was that he and his people were certain low-class Polish Jews; for it is a remarkable fact that people of that class in the East End will not give up one of their number to Gentile justice.

And the result proved that our diagnosis was right on every point. For I may say at once that " undiscovered murders " are rare in London, and the "Jack-the-Ripper " crimes are not within that category. And if the Police here had powers such as the French Police possess, the murderer would have been brought to justice. Scotland Yard can boast that not even the subordinate officers of the department will tell tales out of school, and it would ill become me to violate the unwritten rule of the service. So I will only add here that the "Jack-the-Ripper " letter which is preserved in the Police Museum at New Scotland Yard is the creation of an enterprising London journalist.

Having regard to the interest attaching to this case, I am almost tempted to disclose the identity of the murderer and of the pressman who wrote the letter above referred to. But no public benefit would result from such a course, and the traditions of my old department would suffer. I will merely add that the only person who had ever had a good view of the murderer unhesitatingly identified the suspect the instant he was confronted with him ; but he refused to give evidence against him.

In saying that he was a Polish Jew I am merely stating a definitely ascertained fact. And my words are meant to specify race, not religion. For it would outrage all religious sentiment to talk of the religion of a loathsome creature whose utterly unmentionable vices reduced him to a lower level than that of the brute.

* I am here assuming that the murder of Alice M'Kenzie on the 17th of July, 1889, was by another hand. I was absent from London when it occurred, but the Chief Commissioner investigated the case on the spot and decided that it was an ordinary murder, and not the work of a sexual maniac. And the Poplar case of December, 1888, was a death from natural causes, and but for the "Jack the Ripper " scare, no one would have thought of suggesting that it was a homicide.

Related pages:
  Robert Anderson
       Dissertations: A Mystery Play : Police Opinions on Jack the Ripper 
       Dissertations: A Reply to Kosminski and the Seaside Home 
       Dissertations: An Alternate Kosminski Suspect and Police Witness 
       Dissertations: Anderson and the Swanson Marginalia 
       Dissertations: Anderson, Monro and Jsfmboe 
       Dissertations: Arthur Griffiths, Robert Anderson, & Jack the Ripper 
       Dissertations: Coles, Kosminski and Levy was there a Victim/Suspect/Wi... 
       Dissertations: Dr. Anderson at New Scotland Yard: An 1892 Interview Redi... 
       Dissertations: Emily and the Bibliophile: A Possible Source for Macnaght... 
       Dissertations: From Dublin Castle to Scotland Yard: Robert Anderson and ... 
       Dissertations: Isaac Kosminski 
       Dissertations: Kosminski and the Seaside Home 
       Dissertations: Reader Reactions 
       Dissertations: The Lighter Side of My Official Life - Textual Comparison... 
       Dissertations: The Men Who Suspected Kosminski 
       Message Boards: Sir Robert Anderson 
       Police Officials: Sir Robert Anderson 
       Press Reports: Jewish Chronicle - 11 March 1910 
       Press Reports: Jewish Chronicle - 4 March 1910 
       Press Reports: Morning Advertiser - 30 August 1888 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 4 November 1889 
       Press Reports: Pall Mall Gazette - 8 September 1888 
       Press Reports: Star - 31 August 1888 
       Press Reports: Times [London] - 18 November 1918 
       Press Reports: Washington Post - 21 March 1910 
       Ripper Media: Criminals and Crime 
       Ripper Media: From Constable to Commissioner: Chapter 16 
       Ripper Media: Police Work From Within 
       Ripper Media: Sir Robert Anderson and Lady Agnes Anderson 
       Ripper Media: Sir Robert Anderson and Lady Agnes Anderson 
       Ripper Media: The Life and Memoirs of John Churton Collins 
       Ripper Media: The Lighter Side of My Official Life 
       Ripper Media: The Police Encyclopedia: Volume IV